Sunday, January 30, 2011

Catch Some Zzz’s to Lose Some Pounds

Just the latest in a series of studies evaluating the effects of sleep on weight gain and obesity, a study from the University of Chicago, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that insufficient sleep reduces the effectiveness of normal dietary interventions for weight loss.
Overall, a short night’s sleep significantly decreased the amount of body fat lost by 55% (3 lbs vs. 1.3 lbs with 8.5 hours vs. 5.5 hours sleep, respectively). Also, the loss of fat-free body mass significantly increased by 60% with 5.5 hours sleep compared to 8.5 hours (5.3 lbs vs. 3.3 lbs). Further, participants with 5.5 hours sleep experienced increased hunger compared to the group with more sleep.
(via Simoleon Sense)

Epigenetics and Health

Fascinating video on Epigenetics. Well worth thirteen and half minutes of a time.
Via Doc Gurley
Epigenetics is the software that tells the DNA hardware (the genes) how and what to do -- without altering the gene sequence. And it is at the early stages of development that epigenetic changes can cause lifelong health effects. Understanding these mechanisms holds enormous promise for health prevention.
More here

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

Why Scientific Studies Are So Often Wrong: The Streetlight Effect

This is an excellent article--whose main point applies not only to science but perhaps to each of us individually as well.
via SimoleonSense

Researchers tend to look for answers where the looking is good, rather than where the answers are likely to be hiding.

Turn Down the Heat, Lose Weight?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The differences between your eyes and your camera

As a photographer, I'm often intrigued by the physics of how photography is similar (and different) to how my eyes work - so I figured it was time to write a little article about how it all hangs together.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everything You Know About Fitness is a Lie

Grief of the penguins: Scores of birds bowed in mourning after the deaths of their chicks

Divisive gene splits brain and brawn

CARDIFF U. (UK) — A newly discovered gene defies conventional rules, with the copies inherited from the mother and father working in different ways.

In most cases, both copies are active, but in some one copy is switched off, a process called imprinting.
A gene called Grb10 takes things a step further with the copy from the father only active in the brain and the maternal copy active in all other parts of the body.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

People meet problems in their life, I end up dating them...Haha: On love....

People meet problems in their life, I end up dating them...Haha: On love....: "Being in love is being with God...For me, the Word Love , is the most common yet the most vulnerable word. It has different meanings for dif..."

Monday, January 24, 2011

More to a Smile Than Lips and Teeth

To that end, Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues have surveyed a wide range of studies, from brain scans to cultural observations, to build a new scientific model of the smile. They believe they can account not only for the source of smiles, but how people perceive them. In a recent issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, they arguethat smiles are not simply the expression of an internal feeling. Smiles in fact are only the most visible part of an intimate melding between two minds.
But most importantly, Dr. Niedenthal argues, people recognize smiles by mimicking them. When a smiling person locks eyes with another person, the viewer unknowingly mimics a smile as well. In their new paper, Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues point to a number of studies indicating that this imitation activates many of the same regions of the brain that are active in the smiler.
Embodying smiles not only lets people recognize smiles, Dr. Niedenthal argues. It also lets them recognize false smiles. When they unconsciously mimic a false smile, they don’t experience the same brain activity as an authentic one. The mismatch lets them know something’s wrong.

Dr. Niedenthal herself is now testing the predictions of the model with her colleagues. In one study, she and her colleagues are testing the idea that mimicry lets people recognize authentic smiles. They showed pictures of smiling people to a group of students. Some of the smiles were genuine and others were fake. The students could readily tell the difference between them.
Then Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues asked the students to place a pencil between their lips. This simple action engaged muscles that could otherwise produce a smile. Unable to mimic the faces they saw, the students had a much harder time telling which smiles were real and which were fake.

Molecule stops brain cells from dying

Your Lying Eyes: Can This Be Happening?

You have two eyes.
Each eye sees a slightly different world. (Put a finger in front of your face, switch from one eye open to the other and that finger will shift, just a little bit.) But rather than walk around all day seeing in double vision, your brain pulls the world back into one-ness.
Brains decide what we see. Kokichi Sugihara knows this better than anyone. He makes videos that trick your brain into seeing things that you know, you absolutely know, can't happen.

Art Exhibit Stirs Up the Ghosts of Zimbabwe’s Past

But the government’s efforts to bury history have instead provoked slumbering memories of the Gukurahundi, Zimbabwe’s name for the slaying and torture of thousands of civilians here in the Matabeleland region a quarter century ago.
“You can suppress art exhibits, plays and books, but you cannot remove the Gukurahundi from people’s hearts,” said Pathisa Nyathi, a historian here. “It is indelible.”
As Zimbabwe heads anxiously toward another election season, a recent survey by Afrobarometer has found that 70 percent of Zimbabweans are afraid they will be victims of political violence or intimidation, as thousands were in the 2008 elections. But an equal proportion want the voting to go forward this year nonetheless, evidence of their deep desire for democracy and the willingness of many to vote against Mr. Mugabe at great personal risk, analysts say.

Ms. Khumalo, interviewed while the invitation was still pending last year, wept as she summoned memories of the day that destroyed her family — Feb. 12, 1983.
She was 12 years old. She said soldiers from the Fifth Brigade, wearing jaunty red berets, came to her village and lined up her family. One soldier slit open her pregnant aunt’s belly with a bayonet and yanked out the baby. She said her grandmother was forced to pound the fetus to a pulp in a mortar and pestle. Her father was made to rape his mother. Her uncles were shot point blank.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques. 

This article brought back memories of medical school in which I used all the methods discussed in the article. I always new that creating my own test was the best, but I had a psychological aversion to this as it dispelled any illusion about my level of knowledge!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bending and Stretching Classroom Lessons to Make Math Inspire

Ms. Hart — her given name is Victoria, but she has long since dropped the last six letters — has an audacious career ambition: She wants to make math cool.
She effused, “You’re thinking about it, because it’s awesome.”
She calls herself a full-time recreational mathemusician, an off-the-beaten-path choice with seemingly limited prospects. And for most of the two years since she graduated from Stony Brook University, life as a recreational mathemusician has indeed been a meager niche pursuit.
Then, in November, she posted on YouTube a video about doodling in math class, which married a distaste for the way math is taught in school with an exuberant exploration of math as art.
Link to NY Times article
At first glance, Ms. Hart’s fascination with mathematics might seem odd and unexpected. She graduated with a degree in music, and she never took a math course in college.
At second glance, the intertwining of art and math seems to be the family business. Her father, George W. Hart, builds sculptures based on geometric forms. His day job until last year was as a computer science professor at Stony Brook; he is now chief of content for the Museum of Mathematics, which is looking to open in Manhattan next year.
The summer Ms. Hart was 13, she tagged along with her father to a computational geometry conference. “And I was hooked, immediately,” she said. “It was so different from school, where you are surrounded by this drudgery and no one is excited about it. Any gathering of passionate people is fun, really no matter what they’re doing. And in this case, it was mathematics.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Life is nicer on top of the world

Bad news for subway musicians is a boon for the street performer if what researchers out of the University of North Carolina is true.
Through a series of experiments, they discovered that people in elevated positions tend to take the moral high ground in terms of generosity and generally being pleasant, whereas the opposite is true of those on lower levels such as an orchestra pit.

Close Look at Orthotics Raises a Welter of Doubts

Benno M. Nigg has become a leading researcher on orthotics — those shoe inserts that many athletes use to try to prevent injuries. And what he has found is not very reassuring. 

Then what, Dr. Nigg asked in series of studies, do orthotics actually do?
They turn out to have little effect on kinematics — the actual movement of the skeleton during a run. But they can have large effects on muscles and joints, often making muscles work as much as 50 percent harder for the same movement and increasing stress on joints by a similar amount.
As for “corrective” orthotics, he says, they do not correct so much as lead to a reduction in muscle strength.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Another amazing post from the "J. M. Coetze" equivalent in the medical blogosphere. Bongi is a general surgeon in South Africa and a phenomenal writer. This link is definitely worth reading in its entirety.

the thing is i can't forget. i am scarred. i remember the patient lying in a pool of his own blood, looking up at me and asking, beseeching even to tell him he is going to be ok. i remember wanting to tell him that it would all turn out just fine. i even remember wanting to hold his hand because his mother wasn't there to take care of the emotional side of things. in the end i remember not telling him he would be ok because i wasn't sure he would. i also remember not being the mother he needed in the last moments of his life because that is what it turned out to be. after we had plough through the blood and feces floating around in his abdomen, violated by the bullet fired from the gun of someone my friend feels i must understand, the patient died. he did not die well with his mother or wife holding his hand in love. he died alone in some icu ward with adrenaline being pumped into his veins and oxygen being pumped into his lungs with a scarred doctor who felt that his time may have been better spent holding the patient's hand rather than pouring time and energy into a futile attempt to save his life. you see the reason i can't see the side of the killer is that the killer is still alive and has the sentiments of my learned friend to feel for him. my patient is dead and there was no one next to his bed when he died. there is no one to state his case now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Defensive Anchor Walks a Spiritual Path

It was three days before the Steelers’ A.F.C. divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, a matchup in which the Super Bowl aspirations of two worthy contenders hang in the balance, and Polamalu was getting himself centered.
“How many millions of people woke up in the morning, never to see the evening?Polamalu read.

And then: “The life of a man is a dream. In a dream, one sees things that do not exist; he might see that he is crowned a king, but when he wakes up, he sees that in reality he is just a pauper.”
A pacifist whose tough play epitomizes his violent sport, Polamalu is the anchor of both the Pittsburgh defense and its locker room. In a vote this season of the players, Polamalu was voted the team’s most valuable player, becoming the first safety since Donnie Shell in 1980 to be so honored.

The Hazards of the Couch

Many of us sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, and then go home and head for the couch to surf the Web or watch television, exchanging one seat and screen for another. Even if we try to squeeze in an hour at the gym, is it enough to counteract all that motionless sitting?
A mounting body of evidence suggests not.
Increasingly, research is focusing not on how much exercise people get, but how much of their time is spent in sedentary activity, and the harm that does.

The latest findings, published this week in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, indicate that the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of a screen can have such an overwhelming, seemingly irreparable impact on one’s health that physical activity doesn’t produce much benefit.
One possible mechanism, demonstrated in animal studies, is that being sedentary may affect lipid metabolism. Prolonged inactivity appears to sharply reduce the activity of an important enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which is responsible for breaking down circulating blood lipids and making them available to muscles for energy, Dr. Stamatakis said. Lowered enzyme activity leads to higher levels of fats and triglycerides in the blood, and to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercise has very little impact on the enzyme’s activity, he said.
Extended sitting may also lead to high levels of low-grade inflammation, which can also lead to heart disease, Dr. Stamatakis said. A marker of low-grade inflammation called C reactive protein was about three times higher in the study participants who spent the most time slouched in front of a screen.

On the 12 steps to a compassionate life: Q&A with Karen Armstrong

This week, religious scholar and 2008 TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong released 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, a practical guide to the understanding and practice of compassion. On Christmas eve, the TED Blog had a chat with Karen about the ways people around the world are embracing the Charter for Compassion — the result of her TED Prize wish –- a year from its launch, the importance of kindness in discourse, and the perennial human struggle to put others first.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Neuron predicts if we’ll save or splurge

YALE (US) — Save for retirement or buy the BMW? It’s possible to predict which choice a person will make by eavesdropping on the activity of a single brain cell.

Cana Veggie Rich Diet Make You More Beautiful?

From left: suntanned, neutral, with carotenoid coloring
Courtesy of Ian Stephen, University of Nottingham

There are so many healthy reasons to eat vegetables that it feels redundant to keep enumerating them. But if a stronger immune system, cancer-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber aren't reason enough for some, perhaps we can appeal to their vanity: a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found that eating foods high in carotenoids — a nutrient found in some fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables — gave them a healthy glow that rivaled a sun tan and made them more attractive in tests.

A Continent of New Consumers Beckons

As Disposable Incomes Continue to Climb, Multinationals Shift Focus From Resources to Retail


Some analysts believe a billion-person continental market already has arrived. Consultancy McKinsey & Co. says the number of middle-income consumers—those who can spend for more than just the necessities—in Africa has exceeded the figure for India. The firm predicts consumer spending will reach $1.4 trillion in 2020, from about $860 billion in 2008.
While Africa's resource wealth continues to lure the bulk of foreign investment, the rise of that new consumer class is beginning to shift the balance. From 2000 to 2009, foreign direct investment to Africa increased sixfold to $58.56 billion, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. And that includes a sharp drop during the global financial crisis, from $72.18 billion in 2008

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Light in India

One area where this is desperately needed is access to electricity. In the age of the iPad, it’s easy to forget that roughly a quarter of the world’s population — about a billion and a half people (pdf) — still lack electricity. This isn’t just an inconvenience; it takes a severe toll on economic life, education and health. It’s estimated that two million people die prematurely each year as a result of pulmonary diseases caused by the indoor burning of fuels for cooking and light. Close to half are children who die of pneumonia.

In vast stretches of the developing world, after the sun sets, everything goes dark. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 70 percent of the population lack electricity. However, no country has more citizens living without power than India, where more than 400 million people, the vast majority of them villagers, have no electricity. The place that remains most in darkness is Bihar, India’s poorest state, which has more than 80 million people, 85 percent of whom live in households with no grid connection. Because Bihar has nowhere near the capacity to meet its current power demands, even those few with connections receive electricity sporadically and often at odd hours, like between 3:00 a.m and 6:00 a.m., when it is of little use.
(..) Husk Power Systems--It has created a system to turn rice husks into electricity that is reliable, eco-friendly and affordable for families that can spend only $2 a month for power. The company has 65 power units that serve a total of 30,000 households and is currently installing new systems at the rate of two to three per week.

How Musical Are You?


Jordan McCabe can handle a basketball!

Free Phone Calls

Thanks to a new service called FreePhone2Phone, that transaction is now possible. Listen to a 10- or 12-second ad, get 10 minutes of free calling to any of 55 countries. According to the company, 85 percent of all calls are under 10 minutes long, so most calls are covered.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Use Your Kindle for Free Overseas Browsing on 3G

The Kindle is great for reading books on-the-go, especially when travelling. However, what some people don't know is that you can also browse the web on your Kindle's 3G for free—even internationally.

Medical Journal Says Autism Study Was a 'Fraud'

An influential but now-discredited study that provoked fears around the world that childhood vaccinations caused autism was based largely on falsified data, according to an article and editorial published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.
The article, by journalist Brian Deer, found that important details of the cases of each of 12 children reported in the original study either misrepresented or altered the actual experiences of the children, the journal said. "In no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal," the editorial said. It called the study "an elaborate fraud."

Sunday, January 02, 2011

This Year, Change Your Mind

A great article on the miracle of neuroplasticity by famous neurologist/author Oliver

..In a similar way, blind people often find ways of “seeing.” Some areas of the brain, if not stimulated, will atrophy and die. (“Use it or lose it,” neurologists often say.) But the visual areas of the brain, even in someone born blind, do not entirely disappear; instead, they are redeployed for other senses. We have all heard of blind people with unusually acute hearing, but other senses may be heightened, too.
For example, Geerat Vermeij, a biologist at the University of California-Davis who has been blind since the age of 3, has identified many new species of mollusks based on tiny variations in the contours of their shells. He uses a sort of spatial or tactile giftedness that is beyond what any sighted person is likely to have.
The writer Ved Mehta, also blind since early childhood, navigates in large part by using “facial vision” — the ability to sense objects by the way they reflect sounds, or subtly shift the air currents that reach his face. Ben Underwood, a remarkable boy who lost his sight at 3 and died at 16 in 2009, developed an effective, dolphin-like strategy of emitting regular clicks with his mouth and reading the resulting echoes from nearby objects. He was so skilled at this that he could ride a bike and play sports and even video games.
People like Ben Underwood and Ved Mehta, who had some early visual experience but then lost their sight, seem to instantly convert the information they receive from touch or sound into a visual image — “seeing” the dots, for instance, as they read Braille with a finger. Researchers using functional brain imagery have confirmed that in such situations the blind person activates not only the parts of the cortex devoted to touch, but parts of the visual cortex as well.
One does not have to be blind or deaf to tap into the brain’s mysterious and extraordinary power to learn, adapt and grow. 

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Technology

And so below are 10 things to do to improve your technological life. They are easy and (mostly) free. Altogether, they should take about two hours; one involves calling your cable or phone company, so that figure is elastic. If you do them, those two hours will pay off handsomely in both increased free time and diminished anxiety and frustration. 
You can do it.
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